Saturday, 29 December 2007



  1. The process, act, or faculty of perceiving.
  2. The effect or product of perceiving.

    1. Insight, intuition, or knowledge gained by perceiving.
    2. The capacity for such insight.


  1. The act or process of judging; the formation of an opinion after consideration or deliberation.

    1. The mental ability to perceive and distinguish relationships; discernment: Fatigue may affect a pilot's judgment of distances.
    2. The capacity to form an opinion by distinguishing and evaluating: His judgment of fine music is impeccable.
    3. The capacity to assess situations or circumstances and draw sound conclusions; good sense: She showed good judgment in saving her money. See synonyms at reason.
  2. An opinion or estimate formed after consideration or deliberation, especially a formal or authoritative decision: awaited the judgment of the umpire.


Last week saw a series of events that led to a major debate on perception/judgement between a friend and me. She was of the ‘perception’ (i.e. opinion) that ‘perception’ (i.e. insight gained by perceiving) was somewhat akin to, or even synonymous with, ‘judgement’ (i.e. the formation of opinion after consideration). She was of the opinion that people should not rush to judge each other after a single conversation or two, and I was debating the fact that ‘judgement’ and ‘perception’ are two different matters; just because people perceive others in a certain way does not mean that they are hastily judging or labelling each other.

Now... I am an English teacher. I make a living out of words strung together to create art, poetry, prose. I can debate the definition of words with the best of them. Yet, I also know which battles to take on and which battles to leave alone.

In my heart of hearts, I know that we all perceive those around us in sometime overly simplified ways; it is just the way in which the human mind processes information. When I go to a party, the only way you will stand out in my mind and be remembered is through my perception of you as so-and-so’s eccentric friend in the bohemian Sienna Miller style or the argumentative guy whose head is so far up his behind he cannot see past his nose, let alone my point of view. The next time I see you I may choose to befriend you or keep my distance based on the perceptions my brain has received in the course of our first meeting.

Judgement, however, is a matter of arriving at a decision based on initial perceptions. Judgement is when you take the information filtered through your perception, analyse it, and arrive at a decision, regardless of how flawed your analysis might be. Judgement is passing the verdict that the eccentric friend of so-and-so’s is a head case, based on initial impressions and no more than a few remarks that came out of her mouth, or deciding the argumentative guy is an arrogant tosser who does not deserve another second of your acquaintance, thereby dismissing these two to the black hole of memory’s oblivion.

I pride myself on being a non-judgemental person but I am also aware of the fact that one has to be super-human in order to avoid perceptions of varying degrees. We all perceive our surroundings and fellow humans in our own way, as they pass by the peripheries or venture a minute longer into the spotlight of our perception; that is the only way we, as humans, know how to cope with the world and the daily deluge of sights and sounds that crowd us. I cannot put my hand on my heart and honestly say I do not have any perceptions of people around me, God knows, they have perceptions of me; they have had perceptions of me all my life. CQ the cold one, CQ the quiet one, CQ the aloof one... In fact, their perceptions of me has coloured my judgement of myself so much so that even today, as bubbly as I am in social situations, I still think of myself as aloof and quiet.

Over the last fifteen years of my life, I have made a conscious effort of using the perceptions those people who were honest and courageous enough to share with me, in order to mould myself and develop the way I present myself and hence am perceived. Do I seem arrogant? What can I do to show people I am not? Do I seem too lacking in self-esteem? Is it the way I carry myself or the sound of my voice when I speak? How can I work on myself so that the next time I walk into a room I exude nothing but confidence and strength?

I believe other people’s perceptions help build us whereas their judgements hinder us. I try to keep my distance from judgemental people as I believe as soon as you’ve judged me, you have decided in your mind not to give yourself the chance to get to really know me. As far as I am concerned, if someone is not willing to make the effort and have already pulled the shutters of their mind down, they are not worth the breath I waste in talking or the sleep I lose in thinking about them.

Our friends, true friends, do not judge us – or at least, they are not supposed to. But they are, if they are indeed true friends, supposed to tell us exactly how we are perceived in the outside - and not often friendly - world, so we use those perceptions as building blocks towards self-knowledge and self-development. The first step of that journey, however, is acceptance – not denial, not self-defence - that indeed every word we say, or even the way we say it creates a perception, and there may be some perceptions of ourselves we may not always be 100% comfortable with.

When I open my mouth to speak my mind, I do so with the intention of treating friends the way I’d like to be treated: with honesty and caring. Yet as much as I can debate definitions with the best of them, I know – or I learn along the way – which battles to take on and which ones to leave alone.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Art of Saying Goodbye and the Wisdom of Saying a Prayer

If you have to ‘google’ one name today, make sure it is Stephanie Williams; if you have to read one book in the new year, make sure it is ‘Enter Sandman’ by Stephanie Williams, published only weeks before her death from terminal cancer at the age of thirty two.

I spent Christmas eve leafing through old issues of Glamour magazine and came across Stephanie’s article ‘Saying Goodbye to My Life’ in the October 2004 issue, published only days after Stephanie’s death. Written from the heart, yet without sentimentalising her illness and the aftermath, the article charts Stephanie’s journey through life from the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer, only a few weeks after her thirtieth birthday. After ten years of working hard in New York City, she had recently landed a six-figure salary as a senior writer for SmartMoney magazine and had met a wonderful man on a blind date and found herself in a serious relationship within just four months. It was a week after her return from a trip to Egypt where she had spent her birthday climbing Mount Sinai overnight with her mum and a friend to watch the daybreak over the horizon, Stephanie found a lump in her breast. She spent the next two years undergoing, chemo-therapy, being tied to oxygen masks and swallowing a range of pills. Her cancer was incurable. She begins her honest reflections on living with cancer with the question, “What does it feel like to know that you don’t have long to live?”

In her quest to provide the truthful answer, Stephanie details a magical holiday to Milan she shared with her boyfriend, Daniel at the end of her first year of treatment. Until then, Stephanie had considered cancer to be a blip she would over come. It was on the third day of this magical holiday as a ‘normal’ couple, Stephanie mustered the courage to make that one important phone call home to find out whether her year long battle with cancer was in fact a blip. The results of a recent blood test, however, were shattering – the ‘tumour markers’, the by-products of cancer detectable through blood tests, were rising, suggesting the presence of cancer in her body.

Stephanie describes the rest of her trip as a daze, walking around Milan, sitting at the Sforza Castle with Daniel’s arms around her and calling her mum and her younger sister Laurie and hearing despair in their voices. Then Daniel and she decided to make the most of their holiday, aware that it may be their last. On the last day of their holiday, lying in bed with Daniel in her arms and staring across Lake Como, Stephanie told Daniel, ‘If I could fall asleep right now, I could die with no regrets.’

Her time on earth wasn’t up though, not for another two years. On her return to America, she started a more vigorous round of treatment which left her exhausted, nauseous and in pain, as well as menopausal. As she got too weak in body and in spirit to go out and spend time with friends, Stephanie took up writing her novel. Enter Sandman kept her fears about the imminent threat of death at bay as she focused on the plot and the two characters she absolutely adored. As her plot and her characters developed though, her relationship with Daniel was at a standstill, both of them acutely aware of the possibility of not growing old together. He would still visit as often as before, but they stopped calling each other ‘girlfriend’ and ‘boyfriend’, as they had ‘quietly realised that the dream of a life together wouldn’t happen’.

Once Stephanie accepted that she was no longer moving to Providence with Daniel who was due to take a post there, she set out to make herself happier in New York City, first finding herself a garden apartment in a neighbourhood she loved, furnishing it in warm, cosy colours of orange and khaki, and adopting Gus, a mixed-breed dog with a broken leg whom she nursed back to health. It was only in her illness she realised that most people wait a lifetime to start their lives.
It was not just her physical environment though, as she notes, that had changed. As she slowed down her pace of life, she had noticed a change in her outlook on life as well: ‘For once, I have time to get to know people rather than zooming past them.’ She now had the time to sleep late if she wanted to, to watch TV all day long without feeling guilty, to see her friends in Providence, Rochester and Baltimore. ‘For what it’ worth, and it’s worth a lot,’ writes Stephanie, ‘I’ve had two great years of really living.’

The beauty of bearing her heart open in her writing is that it is clear to see Stephanie does not gloss over the losses she has suffered as a result of cancer, in a bid to focus on the positive. Perhaps the very strength of her writing comes from her dignified acceptance of loss – of a relationship which would have ended in marriage and a brood of kids, of the intense bond she has shared with her mother and her sister. As any honest writer and any honest woman would, Stephanie is also aware of the loss others will have to endure, the pain she will cause them in her departure.

As you read through the final few paragraphs, you can’t help but feel her pain and admire her strength in celebrating the last two years of her life and the bonds she had shared. As you reach the end and find out she passed away shortly before the magazine went to print, you can’t help but contemplate the transience of life, of love, of pain – of any human experience in this fleeting world. This is the story of a woman who thought she had it all at the age of thirty and that life was full of promises. This is the story of a woman who went through a painful ordeal and fell victim to a fatal disease. This is the story of a woman who wanted to be remembered, not just by Gus who used to run to her side to lick her tears away whenever she cried, or by Daniel who she accepts will one day be dancing with someone else at their wedding, or by her family – her mum who had spent the last three years caring for her, her dad who considered her his inspiration and her sister who would lament that they’d ‘never be little old ladies together’, but ‘by as many people as possible’.

Next time you look in the mirror and complain about the excess baggage on your thighs or the extra four inches on your waist; next time your significant other fails to call you first thing in the morning or the last thing at night, or the next time you check your bank balance only to find out you are flat broke to last till the next pay day, remember Stephanie. Say a little prayer for her, and say a little prayer that all your worries amount to one single phone call, or a few inches or a few hundred pounds.
p.s. This post is dedicated to Positive Girl who puts life into perspective through her positive posts.

Monday, 17 December 2007


How many moons have passed since you last received a love letter from me? It is not that I do not feel for you the way I used to anymore, or that I do not have the time or the inspiration to wax lyrical about how I feel for you... It is just that, in every relationship, there comes a time where people slide into an acquired comfort zone, that very phase of a relationship where you can sit around in comfortable silence without having to say a single word, or you look one look at the other and realise exactly syllable for syllable what is going through their mind. In that very phase we sometimes get so caught up in the day to day hustle of life, we tend to forget to express our feelings and let the other person feel just little bit more special for having our love.

This is exactly what I realised when I woke up this morning to the immense feeling of loving you, my husband, my homey, lover, friend. My hero... confidante... best friend... soul mate... partner in crime... The very one who knows me better than I know myself; the very one who loves me even when I hate myself...

I love you more than life itself. More than any word, any letter, any sound in any language can ever tell.

Looking back at the last seven years we have grown together gives me pride as well as joy, seeing just how far a journey we have taken together, hand in hand. I remember how we would spend hours on the phone, you running up your phone bill to exorbitant figures, me dragging myself to my dead-end part-time job. We’d stay up all night to chat. Sometimes we’d fight, you’d tell me some bitter truths about life, and I’d slam the phone down. I think of that April day when I met you for the first time and how you made me laugh at a time of my life when laughing was a distant memory. I remember how when you dropped me off that day you told me you’d marry me one day, only to have me turn around and say ‘not in a million years’.

I think of another April day, a year later, when I decided to take a chance on you, knowing you were still attached to someone else, knowing you were flat broke, knowing how you got my last nerve at times. I thank God I did. I thank God for that April day.

We’d share our last fiver so you could look for a job at the internet cafe while I went out to work and had enough change left of a fiver to buy my lunch. We’d eat egg and bread. We’d buy fake Chinese videos when I got paid on Fridays so we’d stay home and watch movies instead of wasting money at the cinema. Remember those Saturday mornings we used to have to get up early to move you car and keep on moving it around every two hours so you wouldn’t get a parking ticket? Or the time the bed in my box room came crashing down in the middle of the night and we spent the whole night and the next few weeks after that sleeping on the mattress on the floor? Or the time we were having a fight and I dropped the lid of the pot of stew on the floor and burnt a lid-size circle on the lino and had to raise £300 deposit? It wasn’t a walk in the park but we managed. You made it fun. You made every single minute of it worthwhile.

We would lay down on the bed at night, you caressing my hair and me daydreaming of a day in the future where I could have a decent room in a decent house share and you would tell me to dream big. ‘Why just a room?’ you’d say, ‘Why not our own house?’ and I would laugh.

When my dream was a small room, your dream was a six bedroom house. When glass was half empty, your glass was always half full. When I despaired, you dreamed...

We moved into our own place a year later, perhaps the first time I realised the power of dreams. After a whole year of angst with flat mates and weekend trips to Milton Keynes which had in time become my safe haven away from the stress of London, I had finally made the move to Milton Keynes for good and taken that giant step towards life-time commitment by moving in with you.

It was the same year I got my first teaching job. After three long months of self-questioning and soul-searching, I had finally got my first full-time job. All those sleepless nights worrying about how it was all going to come together, you were there to hold me tight and kiss the tears away. All those days I used to come home, exhausted and clueless as to how to survive a job I wasn’t formally trained for in a department where I was being bullied by the head on a daily basis, you were there to offer a warm plate of food and a back rub. All through the months of self-doubting, you believed in me and encouraged me to go on. You believed in me more than I believed in myself; you believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

Then it was time to face my mum... She wasn’t happy about my choice of a future husband. It was not easy for you to patiently wait until I summoned the courage to confront my mum, yet you waited – quietly, patiently, without judgement or bitterness. When things came to a head, you hugged me tight and told me everything would be fine. And guess what? They were in the end... despite the worry, the pain and the heartache. You taught me to have faith in life and its power to sort itself out.

When you quit your job to take up photography, I had doubts. True to form, I worried, I analysed, re-analysed, then analysed some more. You put your own worries aside to put my mind at ease. When I used to laugh at your dreams of where the business would be in a year’s time, I used to laugh at you, and you used to just say ‘ok o, just wait.’ With hardly any money coming in, with unexpected twists and turns on the journey of life, with the pressure of my worries on top of yours, it would have been so easy to blow your top and lash out, but you never did. You taught me the virtue in waiting and seeing.

There were so many times I scoffed at your dreams; being the natural born pessimistic cynic that I am, it was an unconscious habit to laugh at dreams, bracing myself for the worst. Every time I braced myself for the worst, you would encourage me and pull me up to your level of optimism and big dreams. Every time I beat myself up for each and every failure, you would tell me just how wonderful I was. You never laughed at my fears. What is more you never laughed at my fears. For every single weakness in me I pointed out, you would point out a strength. In time, you built up my confidence. In time, you made me feel stronger than I had ever felt in my life. In time, you taught me how to dream big.

I look back at the person I used to be seven years ago: timid, negative and deeply lacking in self-esteem; and I look at the person I have become in the seven years I have shared with you. Through the ups and downs, through the sunshine and the rain, you have always been there. You have taught me to dream big even when I am living small, to not beat myself up for my failures and to celebrate my successes, to pick and choose the battles I take on; but above all, you have taught me to believe in myself and believe in life no matter what it throws at me.

In the last seven years, we have grown together. And in every single moment of that long journey, at each single step we’ve taken together, you have given me unconditional love and utmost respect. You have raised me up to all that I can be and more; you have raised me up so I can see what lies ahead. What lies ahead is amazing... What lie ahead are a six bedroom house, a coupe cab, four beautiful kids, all the Vogue and Elle covers we can dream of shooting, working together, working from home. What lies ahead is looking back, like we’ve done yesterday after an eight hour shoot, at all that we have been through with a smile, giving ourselves a pat on the back for the journey we have made together, proud of how far we’ve come.

I thank you for every unforgettable moment of the last seven years and for every single moment I look forward to sharing with you. And I thank you for all those times you have stood by me, stood up for me, stood behind me. And I thank you for being the wonderful, amazing you. And I love you more than any word, any letter, any sound in any language can ever tell. I love you more than life itself.

Friday, 19 October 2007


I’ve only recently discovered that of all the banks of colourful vocabulary I use in different situations in everyday life, the smallest I’ve got seems to be that of colourful vocabulary I use while out driving. Although my choice of labels for fellow drivers, shouted out or hissed through clasped teeth, are not necessarily parental advisory category, they are rather un-pc. Furthermore, I seem to have quite a limited range, which consists of ‘idiot’, retard, and saved for the dumbest drivers out there, a-hole. Indeed, I do not pick these words at random, but with particular attention to the category of offence that would validate the un-pc labelling. Let’s just have a quick look at the list of insults with the respective offences that justify their use.

Idiot – possibly the mildest of insults on the list, idiot is generally the first step (whirl?) down the spiral of drawing CQ’s fury one’s way. Idiots can be classified as those who pull out in front of you without indicating, tailgate you when you’re going at a reasonable speed on the motorway, suddenly slow down to make a right/left turn without having indicated at all. As can be seen, many in this category seem to be indicator-disabled wastes of space who should really go back to do their driving tests again.

Retard – The choicest form of ‘retard’ you can get from yours truly is the coined re-turd, a play on the word through the use of a former student’s favourite swear word for lower human forms: ‘turd’) Re-turd is save for those who clearly have chucked out the Highway Code and all the other rules of driving, behave similarly in many ways to ‘idiots’ but with more disregard to other road users. For instance, a driver who pulls out in front of you without indicating and blissfully continues to go over the 30 miles speed limit in a built up area truly deserves the label of re-turd, a level of idiocy mixed with excrement.

A-hole – The last but not the least are the choicest drivers, who deserve to be labelled as an orifice of human anatomy where the aforementioned excrement is exerted from. A-holes are those who have total disregard not just for road rules, other users and laws, but also for the sanctity of human life. The sort of driver who not only pulls out in front of you without indicating, but does it right at the last minute barely missing scraping your body work, the driver who dives into the roundabout without checking first, the driver who storms through a one way road without considering right of way clearly belongs into this category. Having, as the Turkish saying goes, ‘got their license from a butcher’s shop’, these should be banned from driving. For life...
Right, I’ll hit the road now...

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Tangent of Death

Can we cheat death? What exactly takes place in one single nanosecond between walking across and staying put, turning left and turning right, life and death? Where is the exact tangent of life and how many times in a life time do we pass a nanosecond close to it?

I ponder this question every now and again.

I asked myself this question after seeing ‘Final Destination’, the psychological thriller about a group of teenagers cheating death by stepping out of a plane minutes before take off due as a result of a premonition and yet get caught one by one in freak accidents. The movie made me ponder the issues of fate, life, death and divinity. If our time has come, can we really cheat death? Or do we merely postpone it for a while, not knowing it is just around the corner, sniggering at our mortal folly?

I asked myself this question when a van cut into my lane, denting my car, on a February morning. What if I had left the house a little earlier? What if I had not stopped at the gas station to get the morning paper? What if I had left something home and had to go back for it? Or is contemplating all the ‘what ifs’ we may come to find in everyday situations futile and foolish? Will all that is meant to be really be, regardless of how many things we could have done differently?

I asked myself this question once again, while in Turkey, after an early morning phone call from one of my aunties, informing us of the accident my cousin had been in. She had been out for dinner with friends, enjoying herself until she got a headache. Thinking it would be best to go home and sleep it off; she announced that she’d call it a night and call a cab. A friend told her it was pointless to get a cab when his chauffeur driven Jaguar was waiting outside. As she got into the car, little did she know that on the way the car would be crashed into from behind, fly off the road and into a tree and come crushing down and she would suffer serious injuries to her head and her spine. If she had, she would have done her seatbelt. She was sitting in the back; as the car came crushing down, she hit her head on the roof and almost broke her back, falling back on the seat. Horribly battered and bruised, she was rushed into emergency, critically injured.

She has since gone through four operations and spent two weeks in intensive care. She still cannot move her legs and it will take a long time before she will fully recover and get any feeling back in her legs. What if she had called a cab? What if she had done her seatbelt? What if she had got the headache a nanosecond earlier or later? Or if she hadn’t got it at all? Or is ‘what if’ a mere synonym for hindsight?

And I ask myself this question once again as I watch United 93, the story of the plane that did not hit its target on 9/11 and its passengers that fought back… What if the delay in take off from Boston was a little longer? What if the officials had realised the gravity of the situation after the first crash at the WTC and cleared the air space? There are so many ‘what ifs’, or are ‘what ifs’ the only way we humans know how to deal with the aftermath of tragedy? And what about the survivors? The stories we heard time and time again in the first few days after the attacks, of people who had taken the day off, or missed the train because they had to rush back home to change the shirt they had spilled coffee on, or didn’t get to the office in time because they’d ignored the alarm clock just a little longer… Mark Wahlberg, who was apparently a scheduled passenger on United 93 but decided, at the last minute, to visit a friend in Toronto instead…

How many times in a lifetime do we get a nanosecond close to that tangent between life and death? Just how many times in a life time do we miss it by a nanosecond?

Friday, 31 August 2007

If at First You Don't Succeed...

‘Get a (New) Life’ read the headline of the feature tagged as ‘virtual living’ in the September issue of Marie Claire. The avatars placed underneath the photographs of their real life owners, they had a remote resemblance to, captured my attention first. Leafing through the four pages of the article, reading the captions underneath the photos, I was incredulous to find out that there were so many people whom one would consider as ‘ordinary’ and ‘normal’ living ‘extraordinary’ and sometimes ‘abnormal’ lives on cyberspace.

Then I read on… about this bizarre world hidden beyond the keyboards and cables, with its population of 7,5 million people, its own currency of Linden dollars, its own high-profile celebrities like Anshe Chung (Ailin Graef to us in the real world) who has become a real life millionaire last November from her business, developing, renting and selling virtual land. Virtual Land, I hear you ask…So did I… alongside a hundred other questions about this bizarre world. And before long, I was a new resident of Orientation Island, Second Life.

Second Life is a rapidly growing computer generated, three-dimensional, virtual universe. Once you visit the website to register your details for a free account and download the programme, you’re given a basic avatar of your choice which you can upgrade within an hour of arriving at Orientation Island. According to Marie Claire, half the Second Life population is female, and the typical user is aged between 25 and 34, with a full time job. Not the game for your average geek then!

As I arrive at Orientation Island, I stumble past other new arrivals, all trying to figure out the finer art of flying in all directions. It takes me about twenty minutes to figure out how to modify my avatar and within minutes, I realise I am surrounded by numerous half-naked avatars in quest of the perfect form: bulging biceps, thinning waist lines, gravity-defying double D boobs abound – mere proof that in second life, you can be everything you wished you were and aren’t in your first. So I saunter off with a sleek bob, razor sharp cheekbones, turquoise eyes, boobs I can only dream of and a bootylicious Beyonce derriere.

Within minutes, I am chased down the steps by Nikolai, a butt naked avatar which seems to showcase the sleazy darker side of this virtual world the MC article focuses on (In May a German TV programme revealed that paedophiles were buying and selling child porn in Second Life and adult avatars were paying to have sex with child avatars which resulted in the expulsion of a 54 year old man and a 27 year old woman.). Since I do not yet own Matrix type moves, available for a decent amount of Linden dollars, I ward off my unwelcome admirer by flying off in another direction. Up up and away…

Two hours on. I have so far had random chats with a Slovakian girl, a 26 year old from Argentina whose avatar goes by the name of Franco and another male avatar, whose owner from Bangladesh seems really keen to chat me up. Franco sounds decent and is easy on the eye with his well-defined muscles; for all I know he might be a lanky, spotty fifteen year in real life, for all I know. Another two hours of brainless exploration and I finally find the way out to Help Island, the ticket to the real LaLa Land of Second Life where all the fun begins. Marie Claire says, and I quote, ‘you can visit New York’s Time Square or the Louvre in Paris, and see bands like Gnarls Barkley and Razorlight playing live, all in one evening.’ No such luck as yet, but I do bump into Franco again who is quick on his game and asks me for my e-mail and pictures. Oh, men are all the same after all, even in Second Life!

I then hit the dance floor for a bit, go to the Freebie Island to adorn myself with numerous frocks, get some more body parts, including a set of nipples, and gestures for my avatar, furniture for a house I do not yet own, and a house for a land I have not yet purchased (Land prices start from L$ 2250, equivalent of $5), blag a freebie yacht and a Lamborghini. Following the other half’s suggestion I should check out the seedy part of town, I land with a thud into a sex shop where I meet Kenshin, an avatar clad all in black, who then teleports me (Yup, levitation and teleportation are no alien concepts in Second Life) to Winged Isle where he takes roughly an hour to pick the perfect pair of wings and pays for them. Genrous as he is, he offers to buy me a pair as well which I kindly decline. He says he will then buy a six-pack – no he is not going to Tesco’s to stock up on booze, it’s for chest definition, as I stare, wide-eyed.

I depart, with a promise from Kenshin he will give me a house once he buys his land on the condition I help him find tenants for the other houses. Well, well, making cash in Second Life may not just be a dream after all! I may one day join the ranks of Simone Stern, the 45 year old Second Life fashion designer from Indianapolis who owns a clothing shop in Second Life where she sells anything from 200 to 550L$ (35-90p) and who made more than £30,000 last year from selling her collection.

As I leave Second Life, after ten hours, on and off, of exploration and a taste of what (second) life has to offer and I can see why it can become addictive. What is scary about Second Life is the vast world of possibilities it offers for its residents. You can own your own land, get on the property ladder, have the coolest, richest, best-looking set of friends, go out clubbing every night with no hangovers to fight off the next morning, go out on the pull and have cyber-sex with stranger without any scruples or the shadow of an STI, you can be/become anything you want to be, you wished you were, you aren’t. Isn’t it uncanny that there are only good-looking avatars in Second Life, like a new race of tall, well-sculpted, irresistibly sexy superhumans?

Second Life defies real life, in doing so it defies reality. The dreamscape Second Life would offer the dorky loner next door whose life revolves around his monitor or the shy chubby girl in the office whom no one invites out to the pub on a Friday is far too immense – the number of emotionally incompetent or socially ostracised people dependent on the computers for survival and stimulation is high as it is, and the possibility of becoming a spot-free, muscular or curvaceous, charming, intelligent individual who is attractive to the other sex, with copious amounts of riches can only tie them more tightly to their computer and pull them further into a world of make-believe.

Sex offered and exchanged in Second Life that is free and readily available, is the allure for some married women who do not see anything wrong or amoral about a sizzling encounter with a cyber stranger. How healthy is it to think that some extra-marital dalliance is good for you just because it is a computer-generated image of yourself going on the pull and exchanging bodily fluids with random strangers? How many cyber-men is too many before a woman can admit she is running away into a dreamscape rather than tackling the problems in her real relationship with a real man in the real world?

As fun as it is for a while to flaunt one’s Beyonce curves with a sexy avatar strut, lounging on a tropical beach watching the sunset, cutting some smooth moves on the floor as the heart and soul of the party, there are times one has to log off and get back to real life when the day is dreary, and your bank account is in the red, and your boss wants that all important report by tomorrow, and your booty has already succumbed to gravity. Then again, if at first you don’t succeed…

Saturday, 25 August 2007


Yesterday, after seven whole years, I bumped into an ex-boyfriend, at a most unlikely time at a most unlikely location. Seven whole years later... The chance encounter, which was awkward to say the least, catapulted me back to seven years ago for a while as I contemplated the magical mending power of time.

Seven years ago, I met a man on a chance encounter at Leicester Square and fell in what I thought was love, but was actually infatuation, at first sight and we had a a whirlwind of three weeks which ended in a bitter showdown after I cheated on him with another ex. As loving and caring as he was on the first few days of our three weeks, soon I had started seeing sides to him I did not really like much, macho arrogance, narcissistic vanity, spoiled stubbornness, just to name a few – not that I am using any of these as justification for what I did at the end of those three weeks. He, on the other hand, had heard rumours about me being a ‘playeress’, very much a result of falling for the wrong guys, then going desperately on the rebound; yet he had stuck it out to prove the gossip mongers wrong. In the end, at a time I was feeling vulnerable, a phone call from an ex I had always held out a torch for, I did something that proved the gossip mongers right.

After a period of cooling down, and much begging from a desperate twenty one year old me who was thinking she had lost the best thing that had ever happened to her, we tried to give it another go… As you may have guessed, a man whose ego has been damaged so badly and a clueless girl who was foolish enough to think this man was the love of her life after only three weeks, the second try was doomed. This time I had to do all the work, all the chasing around, all the compromise; and I was foolish enough to think I deserved it because of my betrayal, even at times I was not so foolish, I got reminded of what I had done to him an awful many times. In the end, he called up out of the blue, a night in November, to call it a day, saying he’d not be able to trust me ever again.

I took off the next few days, shut myself in my room, cried my eyes out, talked to friends, cried some more. I went out, got drunk, I made teary-eyed, drunken phone calls in the early hours of the morning; I regretted teary-eyed, drunken phone calls in the early hours of the morning; I got dissuaded by good friends from making teary-eyed, drunken phone calls in the early hours of the morning. I blabbered to flatmates, to friends, to pretty much anyone who would listen. Then when I thought it was all over, I cried more. I did all sorts of foolish things women do when they think they are in love (Indeed I now know they are not, and I was not because I now know love is the last thing to make you an emotional wreck). Most of all, and worst of all, I blamed myself for everything that had gone wrong.

Like any good player out there, this man had not just left me – but he had left me with hope; maybe it was cowardice or pity or mere heartless player’s game, but at every ill-advised phone conversation we had over the next few months, he always said something that would light up my day like a ray of light – he still liked me, he said, but wasn’t sure if he’d be able to trust me again; we could get back together, he’d say but remind me there were other girls out there and I had to compete, I had to convince him he could trust me again. Foolish as I was, I bought that.

Then there were ill-advised meetings after which I felt used, betrayed, and more fragile than the last time. Yet the next time he would call, I would still go weak at the knees and give in. Deep inside, I was hoping he’d take me back; I was hoping, if I showed him I was ready to do anything he’d ask of me, that one day he’d forgive me and trust me again. Now I know you cannot convince someone to forget the past and give you the trust you have thrown in their face; only they themselves can decide to let go of the past and make the conscious decision to trust someone. Back then, I was twenty one, none the wiser. Twenty-two, none the wiser.

This game of cat-and-mouse went on for over a year, if you’d believe it. In the mean time, there were days I broke down completely, nights I thought I’d lost the plot, times I’d have sobbing fits outside night clubs at three in the morning. Looking back, oh how I wasted a whole year of my youth, drowning in self-hate, guilt and negativity. My self-pity was a bottomless pit that threatened to engulf me completely. It took one final enormous act of humiliation and a good hard talking to by a good friend to finally give me a kick up the backside and get a move on towards healing, of heart and soul.

Is it a coincidence that it was only after I forgave myself and let go of all the pain that I was able to stand on my own two feet and face whatever life had in store for me? Is it a coincidence that it was only after I was ready for life that life had true love in store for me with a man who was my friend, my number one support, who loved me for all the right reasons and had trust and faith in me knowing I had cheated on someone before, a man whom I was not just infatuated with but had gradually fallen in love with over months of warm fuzzy friendship?

Today, after that chance encounter yesterday, these were the thoughts that went through my mind. On departure, I turned to my ex and wished him well. For whatever has gone down between us, however hurtful it was for both of us; in the end, it was seven years ago. Seven years is as long time to recover, grow up, grow wiser and look on your exes for what they really are: stepping stones, learning curves, milestones on the way to learning about relationships, yourself, and true love. In the end, they are all there neatly filed up in the memory bank of our dusty remembrance; occasionally we come across them, reminisce, congratulate ourselves on how far we have come on this journey of life, and wish them well for making us taller, stronger, wiser.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Friday Fun

A fun post for some Friday fun.
Suby and I spent Monday in London. We set out for business meeting which was scheduled for 11.00 am and decided to walk around the West End afterwards in search of some street photography opportunities. Alas, no such luck due to the miserable weather which has come to be a consistent fixture of our lives this summer.

We met up with our friend
Jide Alakija in Leicester Square and spent a good hour shooting in Soho as Jide was desperately fighting with a cash machine in HSBC that had swallowed up his cheque without giving back a receipt. It was not to last, however, as rain started pouring down without relent and we had to pack up and make our way first to the National Gallery to wonder at those who had had the good fortune of getting their images displayed in the portrait gallery and dreaming of a time in the future where we have the same good fortune. Then we met up with a lovely friend of Jide's, Zsofia and made our way to Burger King to take shelter from the foul weather and feed Jide what Zsofia calls 'processed rubbish', where Jide had a quick meeting with his PA, Kaffy as Suby, Zsofia and I were fooling around with the camera. As you may have guessed, three SLR cameras to five people is quite a good cameras to people ratio hence most eyes were upon us. Before long some of the BK waiters were asking me to take a couple of shots and having voluntary victims to 'shoot' I gladly obliged with a few shots until Jide butted into the least shot, hence you've got this shot a a cuckoo man posing with a cup of drink and two traumatised BK workers trying to keep straight faces.

A great day was had by all, except maybe the two guys in the shot who may have regretted ever having asked for a picture together. Hanging out with Jide, in Suby's loving words, the Alakija fellow, is always fun and eventful. Meeting Zsofia and Kaffy, such lovely, beautiful, soulful people with such great positive energy was definitely a pleasure.

Coming home on Monday, I realised, in the last two years, through photography and blogging I have met such lovely people and still continue to meet many more. It is wonderful to meet and get to surround myself with such positive people determined to succeed in the world in their own way, be it through photography, writing or simple sharing stories, memories and inspiration, so today's Friday fun picture is for all those new friends out there I have met and am yet to meet on my journey in cyberspace. Enjoy your Friday and have a great weekend, folks!

Monday, 23 July 2007

Monday Muse: Moi

Thursday evening… Leicester Square… As I walk through the early evening crowd in London, under the dusky azure skies of my spiritual hometown, there is only one word to describe the feeling deep inside of me, scattering in a million shades of firecrackers and light as a butterfly’s wings: Contentment.

I don’t know how many times I have walked down the same trail from King’s College at Strand down to Charing Cross then up towards Leicester Square. There was the very first time as a fresh PhD candidate, full of hopes and dreams, having stepped off the train from Egham, armed only with her ideas for a research which she didn’t know would take her a good part of early twenties. Then there was the disengaged girl who would have much rather scampered in her heels down to Oxford Street for a spell of shopping than go over the same chapters of tedious writing with her supervisor. Then there was the teary-eyed girl who trod the same walk with feet of lead and a sunken heart, determined to prove them wrong yet too exhausted to go on. Now a twenty-eight year old woman, willing to take criticism she does not necessarily agree with, determined to give her writing her best shot, resolute to complete what she has set her heart on doing a long time ago.

In the recent years I have suffered every single thing you would expect a PhD student to suffer: hours of isolation cooped up amidst the dusty shelves of a dingy library, threads that promise heaps of information ending in dead ends, writer’s block, frustration, reluctance or inability to constantly revise and redraft, midnight shifts spent reading, taking notes and writing away into the small hours of the morning, low cash flow, exhaustion… You name it, I’ve been through it, which resulted in two years spent fooling myself into thinking I was getting on with things when in reality I wasn’t, and another two years of interruption after I realised my subconscious reluctance to do any work on my dissertation and decided to take time out to focus on my career without the pressure of a PhD dissertation that needed consistent work, effort and drive without any distractions.

Now with renewed vigour, I am ready to throw myself back into it. I walk down the same trail I have walked down so many times, filled with so many different emotions and realise I have so much to be thankful for. I have spent a good part of the last four years berating myself for not pushing myself hard enough. At times I have felt like a failure. On a mild, languorous Thursday evening under the azure skies of London, I look back, take stock and realise I am anything but.

I arrived in the UK at the age of twenty one, fresh and green. In London, I found my feet, friends, and my identity. Over the course of the last eight years, I completed an MA, survived in a metropolitan on my own two feet, on a £600 per month budget, on a wing and a prayer. I made my way through a range of crappy house shares and a range of crappier men. Within seven months of each other, my dad and my grandma passed away.

Then I moved to MK and got my first full-time job: teaching, with no formal teacher training and no teaching experience. With next to no support at work, a bully of a department head, a syllabus I couldn’t get my head around, I would come home and cry my eyes out every evening, then get back up, wipe away the tears and stay up well beyond midnight planning my lessons. Two years later, I took up another job; half-way through my formal teacher training year, I had to take three whole months off work due to a range of illnesses which later delayed my training and caused adversities at work with some students and colleagues. At one point, I was on the verge of serious depression.

Now I am a qualified teacher, respected by my colleagues and appreciated by many of my students. I have recently started writing for a fashion magazine and am now pushing myself more in freelancing. People tell me I have a way with words, and for once, I actually almost believe them. It has been just over a year since I picked up an SLR camera for the first time to go out shooting on a beautiful April day. A year on, people say I take amazing photographs and I am a part of Team Suby and Sin What is more, for the first time in my life, I actually have the confidence to almost believe I do indeed take amazing photographs.

Walking under the calm azure skies on a Thursday evening, my heart light like a butterfly’s wings, my steps matching the easy summer rhythms of languorous London, I look back and take stock, I look back and realise just how far I have walked, I look back and realise just how little credit I sometimes give myself.

For as long as I have known myself, self-doubt and low self esteem have always been inherent parts of my personality. Most days I still wake up thinking I suck or I am a failure, especially when things are not going my way. Most days, I need my other half, frustrated by just how blind I can be to my own talents, to remind me of how much I have achieved and how much I am set to achieve. For today though, as I walk down on my path, I don’t need reminding. I know there’ll be harder days when the dusky azure skies will turn dark and gray, and I know there will be dips on the path and steep hills, I know there is a huge possibility something may go wrong tomorrow and knock the wind from my sail; but for today, I will enjoy my accomplishments, my talents, my life.

For today, I will celebrate myself and the journey I have made so far.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Midweek Moan: Mind Your Language

I have spent a good part of the last few hours effing and blinding and cussing like a sailor. And the reason for all the foul language? The very word itself: Language.

Mid last week I realised, halfway through my early evening snooze I had completely forgotten to renew my Turkish passport. It was a matter of urgency, considering I had already booked my ticket for 29 July. Hence, I jumped off the couch to run around the house like a headless chicken to gather all the required bits to send off to the Turkish Consulate in London and sat down to write a letter, which was not one of the requirements. I just thought it was courtesy you see rather than just sending the postal order and the passport. The letter printed, documents ready, I made my way to the post office the next day to send my passport off via special delivery. I was not worried about time constraint as I had been through the procedure about three years ago and it had taken them only a few days to stamp my passport and post it back to me.

When I got home today and found the special delivery envelope that the other half signed for, I was much pleased with the fast service on the part of an office of the Turkish government whose generous application of the red tape would make a civilian want to tear their hair out at the best of times and want to jump off the tallest building in town in an exasperated desperate bid to end all the suffering and waiting. Then I opened the envelope. It didn’t even cross my mind to check the passport until the other half picked it up, found a letter from the Turkish Consulate folded inside passport and announced that my passport had not been renewed. Not a speaker of the beautiful Turkish language, he handed the letter to me to read the lame excuse of their refusal to renew: On the proforma letter, they had actually inserted a hand-written condition stating they did not accept letters written in English. You can imagine the amount of ‘French’ that came out of my mouth, let alone the English…

Now these people are employed by the Turkish government as a select few who are well-educated and well-spoken, able to communicate in at least one language other than their native one. They are extremely able to decode any form of written or spoken English. Believe me, I know, I applied with a letter written English three years ago and my request was promptly resolved. Three years on, the employees of the Turkish Consulate in London must either have regressed in their language skills or must have lost a huge number of grey matter in their heads. I have sent my passport, my Turkish I.D. and a postal order which is written to the amount quoted for a two year passport extension. Whether my letter, which I remind you was only an act of courtesy on my part (Woe be me for actually showing manners and courtesy!), is written in English or Turkish, is irrelevant as far as I am concerned. For someone who lives in the U.K. and works at one of the most coveted posts available only to a select well-educated few, they are equipped with the skills to decipher the nature of my request, regardless of whether my letter was written in Urdu, Sanskrit or Yoruba… It is the act of extreme pro-nationalism that makes their own nationals suffer which frustrates me…

I have since voiced the very same request in Turkish in a letter that surprisingly contains no expletives which I think is a generous courtesy on my part. I will need to retrace my steps back to the post office and post the same documents once again and hope that this time they renew my passport before the 29th. Mind, I did include the words ‘Royal Mail’ in stating that I was enclosing a self-addressed Royal Mail envelope. If they send my passport back with another lame excuse, they will be hearing from me. And this time it’ll be all ‘French’.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

On Marriage

Where does love begin, where does it end? Is it at first sight, first kiss or the very first time after weeks, months, years, you look at a special someone and realise they are the very person you want to wake up next to every morning and want to say good night to before you turn off the light at night?
Where does love end? At what point do you go from the dress, the cake, the tender kiss on the forehead, the passionate gaze across the room, to fighting over who gets to keep the house, the car, the kitchen sink and the family dog?
Most importantly, maybe, how do we let love mature through the weeks, the months and the years without turning sour? As reiterated time and time again, in poetry, music and wedding speeches; the formula to the elixir of long-lasting love seems to be mutual trust, respect and honesty, maybe most important of all, compromise – 'Give a little, take a little,' as the father of the bride declared three weeks ago on Saturday, advising the newly wed couple on the journey that lies ahead.
I have been to three weddings in the last month and seen photographs from a fourth. Every single one of these weddings have made me experience a range of different emotions, from joyful exuberance at the newly wed couples' union to misty-eyed reminiscence about my own wedding a year ago; from admiration of the unprecedented acceptance of families to welcome another as their own to curious queries on the very nature of the union called marriage.
Marriage is a union of two different, however compatible, individuals from two different families, backgrounds, at times different cultures or even continents; such a union has its challenges as well as the enrichment and joy it gives. Most of all, it provides a couple the opportunity to grow in unison, working through their differences, embracing those very differences that make them unique, nurturing the similarities that draw them closer and at times of crisis, finding common ground in similarities. Marriage is a game of understanding. In fact, maybe my analogy is completely incongruous; marriage is not a game. It is work. Hard work, at times. Marriage is a pact between two people, which requires just more than a careless stumble with eyes closed. There is no point thinking that there won't be days where dinner plates won't be flying in the air, alongside threats and hurtful words; where doors will be slammed shut, alongside hearts, banning entry to the other party; that there will not be tears, tantrums, fights, misunderstandings. When you do manage to come out at the other end though, that pact will be much stronger for every tear shed or every dinner plate broken.
'Marriages don't fail, people do,' said a reading in one of the weddings I attended in the last month. My conviction is marriages fail when people fail. When people fail to listen, or to understand or even fail to work through issues that turn bright-eyed, 'butterflied' love turn sour and miserable. That is when marriage packs up and fails even before one gets to consider packing up their suitcase and starting the bitter battle over the house and dinner plates, cracked, chipped and broken.
'Give a little, take a little,' I have learnt, should be the motto of every couple, whether they have shared just five weeks or twenty five years together. 'Give a little' teaches one to let go of their ego and self-interest, 'take a little' allows us to appreciate all the times that special someone stands by us to love, cherish and honour. 'Give a little, take a little' helps a couple grow in a marriage where hopefully all that is chipped, broken or cracked is the dinner plates, not our fragile hearts or fine china marriages.

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Monday, 16 July 2007



I have decided that – as long as I can commit myself to regular daily posts on my blog – Mondays will be ‘Monday Muse’ day to kick-start the working week in an upbeat fashion. In the light of this, my first muse comes straight from the pages of a Sunday supplement that came with one of yesterday’s papers. I enjoyed reading the feature on Natasha Wood, a thirty six year old writer-performer from Nottingham whose drive and determination has taken her as far as Los Angeles on the road to stardom and success despite her ongoing battle with spinal muscular atrophy, a incurable genetic muscle-wasting disease. Natasha’s story also made me realise just how much we need to hear inspiring stories of people who refuse to give up and turn negatives into positives and disabilities into possibilities.

Natasha has been bound to a wheelchair all her life, undergone painful operations as a teenager to straighten her back and has been called names by some kids at school. Yet her strength of spirit and independence shines through the mere assertion that she ‘gave as good as [she] got’, a school bully got his just deserts when he punched her once and broke his fist on the body brace Natasha used to wear from her groin up to her chest to keep her back straight. ‘From then on no one bothered me,’ she says laughing.

After leaving school with five O-levels, Natasha auditioned Graeae in London, a disabled-led theatre company and got a part in a play called Why. On her return to Nottingham, she studied drama A level. It was around this time she met and fell in love with Duncan Wood, her former husband; they had an amicable divorce in 2004 after fourteen years of what she calls ‘the happiest marriage’. The same year saw Natasha promoted to the position of production manager with the BBC. Her divorce followed months later with her brother’s – also a spinal muscular atrophy sufferer – death, led Natasha to re-assess her life and apply for a nine-month position as a production manager for the BBC in New York. Since her move in 2005 to a luxury apartment in Manhattan, Natasha Wood has not taken a break from her journey to success in her chosen field.

Her 90-minute one-woman show Rolling with Laughter, which is based on her life, is booked out for months ahead in Los Angeles. She is due to appear in London and the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. She has also been offered several acting opportunities including a pilot for a sitcom she will be starring in.

From her teenage years to her journey Stateside, Natasha Wood has demonstrated strength of body and spirit in the face of adversity. As she is quoted in the feature, she seems to be a strong, resilient, independent woman who is at peace with herself and her life. By any standard, she has led a much more colourful and rewarding life in the whole of thirty six years than some can manage in a lifetime. Isn’t she inspiration enough for many us able-bodies folk out there who are crushed in the face of a single blow?

Now, people who know me also know I am no Miss Polyanna. In fact, I am quite at ease with my pessimism. Nine times out of ten, bar the occasional light-hearted, caution-to-the-wind exception, my glass is ‘half empty’ or even when I can see it ‘half- full’ I spend so much time focussing on the half-empty part that I forget to count my blessings.

For people like me, there are so many lessons to learn form Natasha Wood’s story, from the stories of many others like her, who refuse to give up. As they say, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.’ For people like Natasha, the going hasn’t just got tough overnight; it has always been tough. The secret of keeping on keeping on is a positive outlook on life, the strength of character to refuse to admit defeat, the adaptability of mind that sees opportunities, not handicaps – or rather opportunities in handicaps, possibilities in disabling, debilitating circumstances, the will to take negatives and turn them into positives.

This is my tribute to such people, my Monday muses…

Thursday, 12 July 2007

50 Ways to Tell You're Turkish

Since I have mused at length about death in my last post, I thought I'd post something a little more light-hearted today. Enjoy!

50 Ways to Tell You’re Turkish

1. You can sing at least one Sezen Aksu song, in tune, from beginning to end, backwards and sideway, and inside and out.

2. You go to football games armed with a range of weaponry ranging from kitchen knives to katanas.
3. You treat any form of international sports event as a matter of life or death.
4. You drink your tea from an hourglass-shaped glass… Without milk.

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5. You scorn Nescafe in favour of a tiny cup of coffee with huge granules at the bottom.
6. And you flip the cup over on the saucer when you’re done, let it cool down and read your fortune from the cup.
7. You consider Eurovision as some form of patriotic excursion. And you’re proud that you no longer end up with ‘no point’.
8. You end a boozy night out having a soup made of cow intestines.
9. And no night out is a night out without booze. Preferably good ole raki.

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10. And no night out starts before 11 o’clock.
11. You find yourself debating the possibility of a massive earthquake which will supposedly hit Istanbul in the next thirty years.
12. The news show on your TV features half an hour footage on carnage on motorways. Dead bodies covered with newspapers. Cue sad music in the background.
13. The entertainment shows on your TV last at least three hours.
14. Sunflower seeds are the snack of choice for a night in watching TV.
15. Every other program on your TV seems to feature a dozen of long-legged women dancing around in skimpy outfits.
16. You would get groped by some ‘maganda’ the moment you step out on the street in a skimpy outfit.
17. You’ve been on the minibus – a form of public transport consisting of a psychotic driver whose got delusions of being on a Formula 1 track, his assistant that hangs out the side door, shouting out the destination (‘Aksaray, Aksaray!) and a dozen passengers huddled together like sardines in a tin.

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18. You know at least one person who thinks yoghurt is the magical cure for every disease.
19. And another person who thinks going around barefoot is the cause of all major ailments.
20. You pull your earlobe, make a kissing sound with your lips and touch wood to ward off evil.
21. Any ill that might come your way is a sign of the much-feared ‘evil eye’.

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22. You have at least once carried sugar cubes, blessed with prayers at a mosque, as a lucky charm to an exam.
23. You’ve spent a good deal of your life taking off your shoes as you walk into a house and putting on a pair of slippers.
24. And you’ve been to houses where they keep slippers of all shapes, sizes and colours for guests.
25. You’ve been chased around the house, at least once, by your mom brandishing that fatal weapon: her slipper.
26. Your family would probably disown you if you became a vegetarian. No meat? What nonsense?
27. You get charged four times more than Russian tourists to holiday in the same Turkish resort.
28. You require a visa to travel to half the world’s countries.
29. You get offended by food labels in other countries labelling your own food ‘Greek feta’, ‘Greek yoghurt’ or ‘Greek humus’…
30. You dislike the Greeks because they are competition but you like them because they’re ‘our neighbour’.
31. You are inclined to dance to any tune, including the banging and clunking of kitchen crockery.
32. People pretty much take it for granted that you can belly-dance simply because you’re Turkish and ‘it's your traditional dance, right?’
33. You live in a country where two guys going out for a meal is not considered ‘gay’.
34. And where people actually pay to go to clubs where the entertainer’s biggest selling point is his sexual orientation or recent sex change.
35. When you don your latest Nike trainers or your Gucci bag, it is highly likely that someone will ask you whether they are real or fake.
36. You probably know the hairiest man in the world, or better yet, are related to him.
37. ‘Spawn of donkey’ or ‘bear’ are words that are considered to be pretty offensive insults in your native language.
38. You wouldn’t be able to talk if your hands were amputated.
39. You greet friends with a kiss on each cheek and a hug. Even if you are both male, yes.
40. You greet your elders by kissing their hand.
41. You call people who are older than you ‘aunt’, ‘uncle’ or ‘brother’ even if you are not related by blood.
42. You are not offended when the guy behind the market stall or the street vendor greets you as ‘auntie’.
43. You are not reaching for your camera to quickly snap a shot when you see a street vendor shouting out ‘Vegetable seller is here, ladies!’
44. Nor do you reach out to call the police when you see a kid walking on the motorway selling handkerchiefs or bottled water or ‘simit’ or music tapes for your car.

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45. In fact you slow down, wind down, buy a ‘simit’ and a tape; nibble on your ‘simit’ in the heavy traffic whilst listening to your tape.

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46. Any slow song has the power to make you cry.
47. Any slow song after a broken heart and one too many drinks has the power to push you to depression and suicidal thoughts.
48. Not only do you have water surrounding your corner of the world on three sides, you tend to enjoy sitting at the water’s edge contemplating your life when you’re depressed.
49. You spend half your lifetime complaining about your country and your people, and the other half proudly announcing to the world you are Turkish and you are proud of it.
50. You read this list and go, ‘Yeah, I do that!’

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Very Essence of Life

Take a glimpse at the photograph. And then close your eyes for a minute. Meditate. What is your first thought, first association with the photograph?


Everyone has a few dates in their lives, certain milestones, associated with love, birth, celebration, loss, death, life… For me that date is 11 July. On 11 July 2001 my dad passed away. For weeks, months and years that followed, that date for me was associated with pain, heartache and mourning of the deepest kind. It was a milestone, a rite of passage, my first experience of death in the immediate family, at an age where it was no longer a vague idea shrouded by safe distance and childish apathy. Waking up to panic attacks in the middle of the night, dreading every single Father’s Day, secretly envying daughters all over the world who were lucky enough to have a father to send a card to, or take out for dinner, or to simply sit down and enjoy quiet companionship with.

Yet time is the kindest nurse – before you realise, you find that time has gently mended your deepest scars, nursed you through the darkest hours of grief and nourished you back to strength and renewed resolve to carry on. In time, I realised that any date associated strongly in my mind with my father, especially 11 July, became a day of celebration of his life – and a celebration of life.

One regret I have every year on 11 July is that, is that because of work commitments I cannot be there to visit my dad’s grave, to lay down flowers, to whisper a prayer, to sit quietly on the edge of his tomb in the sombre silence of the graveyard, just to feel his presence around me. I still do visit him though each time I go to Istanbul.

Today’s photograph was captured on one such visit. Like in any major city around world, visiting a cemetery in Istanbul is a bizarre experience, finding yourself in the sombre solitary silence, disquieting quiet of intricately designed avenues, streets, alleyways of marble tombstones, dappled in the afternoon sun streaming through the dense leaves of ancient trees in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a buzzing metropolitan alive with vigour, energy and aggression; aged willow trees towered by glitzy skyscrapers, urban high rises proudly standing tall.

Looking through the leaves shading the last resting place of another loved one, it is easy to see the twin towers and their morbid connotations. Twin Towers of Istanbul in which hundreds of office workers are going about their lives, without a shadowy thought of death, below on the streets the cars whiz past, the pedestrians purposefully pace in all directions towards their destinations. In the hurried hustle and bustle of life and the haze that clouds our minds with a daily list of things to do – urgent, important, asap – no one has the time to stop and ponder the meaning of life.

‘Life is a journey, not a destination’ flashes the magnetic picture frame on my fridge, holding a picture of my parents and a ten year old me; indeed it is. ‘Death is the best advice in life’ says a sign the cemetery across the Twin Towers of Istanbul. Life is a journey, with one single destination. All ‘gilded monuments’ and ‘lofty towers’, all inventions of mankind, and mankind too, will one day turn to ashes and dust; all life as Shakespeare says ‘is rounded with a sleep’. It is only at such milestones of life, we have a glimpse of the bigger picture, the final destination but once the moment has passed, we forget and drift along life, purposefully yet aimlessly. ‘Life is a journey’ and ‘death is the best advice’ to remind us to truly live, cherish, capture, enjoy every single moment of that journey.

Two months after my personal tragedy, the world shook with a global tragedy of two planes searing across the New York skyline, slicing through the Twin Towers of Manhattan. On the very same day, one of my father’s best friends passed away. As the people of New York City united in the face of tragedy, as people all over the world felt the overwhelming need like they had in that moment of impact, to reach for the phone and hear the soothing tone of a loved one’s voice, just to say ‘I love you’; personal tragedy united my mum and her now best friend, the widow of my father’s friend. Two women tenuously linked through their husbands’ friendship that spanned a good part of thirty years, two widows united through kindred pain, two women who built a friendship through the ruins of their hearts battered by the loss of a spouse.

These two pillars of strength are mere proof that despite the frozen moment of stunned shock and the sombre grieving that follows, life goes on. As they laugh and cry through the reminiscences of old times, travel through the ups and downs life has to offer, taking strength in their friendship; they truly live, cherish, capture, enjoy every single moment of the journey. What they have lost with their husbands’ passing, they have found in their friendship: the will to go on, the wisdom to know all that comes shall indeed pass, and a hand to hold on to in sadness, and a hand to high-five in celebration.

Towers will tumble, castles will crumble, fortresses will one day fall to ashes and dust; one day each journey will reach its ultimate destination. 11 July reminds me to make the most of the journey, to tell loved ones they are indeed loved as much and as often as I can, to truly live, cherish, capture, enjoy every single moment. On 11 July every year, as I celebrate my father’s life, I resolve to lead such a life that would make him proud, a life as much worth celebrating as his own.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Welcome to My Little World

My first post... I've known about blogspot for ages, but it wasn't until I stumbled upon my cousin Vickii's spot a couple of months ago and my other half Subster decided to set up his own blog a few weeks back that I considered setting up my own account. And here we are - in my little world.
Who am I?
People call me Sin, Sinem, Sinami, Cinnamon, Xena, Sinnie... At the ripe age of twenty nine, teacher by profession, writer by hobby, moonlighting as a photographer when the opportunity presents itself or the fancy takes me.
Crazysexycool woman of class and elegance... perfectionist to a fault, empathetic, sensitive, gentle, complicated, multi-layered, multi-tasking, over-analytical, borderline obsessive compulsive, genuine, brutally honest, laid-back, easygoing, introverted, reflective, introspective, stubborn, pessimistic, self-deprecating, born-worrier, sarcastic, sassy, crazy, cool, kooky. I'm just me.
I love chocolate, and writing, and photography.I love summer, the beach and swimming in the sapphire seas. I love ice cream, Haagen Dazs cookies & cream, Baileys on a hot summer's eve, sunshine on my skin and sea salt in my hair, true child of the Mediterranean.
I love romantic comedies and duvet days, good reads, my morning latte. Making scrap-books, travelling places, catching the journey of the sun from the east to the west, taking snapshots in the blink of an eye. Street photography - capturing a single second in a stranger's life. Black&white... Or landscapes. My camera and I, alone in the wilderness, in search of that picture perfect scenery.
Writing... poetry, short stories, novels. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd give up the day job, buy a house by the ocean, and write from dawn till dusk. Writing makes me happy. That one thing in life I can get so wrapped up in I forget the passing of time.
I love music. Singing in my car at the top of my voice! Feeling the lyrics to the bone. I love songs that make me smile (Smile, She moves in her own way...) I love songs that make me cry (Dance with my father, Hello...).
I love poetry. I love the neat sequence of words telling the stories of the soul. A bit of Browning, a bit of Frost, a bit of Shakespeare is good for the soul.I love each single moment spent enjoying myself, with friends, family, loved ones. Good times, good food, good wine.
Life is too short to spend any moment in pain or sadness. I have had my fair share in the past to know that. In the end, life is what you make of it. Make it worthwhile.